Texas Rangers at the 2019 All-Star Break

Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch

Wiley Singleton

Rangers Mid-season Review

            The Texas Rangers have overperformed preseason expectations and are poised to compete for the 2nd wild card spot. As it stands, the Rangers have a much better record than they did at this time last year.  Despite poor showings against the Pirates, Angels, and Astros on the road, the Rangers are 6 games above .500. They are sending three players to the All-Star game. An injured Hunter Pence, who was voted as the starting DH and has been an RBI machine. The recently recovered Joey Gallo, whose tremendous power will not be on display in the Home Run Derby. And finally, pitching WAR leader and ace Mike Minor. Minor skipped his last start before the break for extra rest. He probably will not pitch in the All-Star game.

            So how did a team projected to finish last in a weak division do so well before the break? Lets go over the players and see.

Pitching-

            Frankly, the pitching has not been all that great. The opening day starting rotation was: Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Edison Volquez, Drew Smyly, and Shelby Miller. Minor has stepped up to become a true ace. He is top 5 in average pitches per outing. He is ranked 2nd in the AL in ERA. He has been a workhorse and the cornerstone of the Rangers success. He will need to maintain form and start the best of one wild card game for the Rangers to have any shot at all. Minor is a strong Cy Young contender and has taken to his role of ace better than anyone could have hoped for.

            Former Saint Louis Cardinal Lance Lynn has been a great addition to the rotation. He is a power pitcher with a deceptively high ERA. Lynn is also top 5 in the league in average pitches per outing. Lynn and Minor doing this consistently has taken a ton of strain off of the poor bullpen.

            Edinson Volquez had a severe arm injury that prevented him from stinking up the joint every five days as intended. Volquez was poor before the injury and will probably be even worse once he returns. The few good years he had after being traded for Josh Hamilton are a thing of the past and he is borderline unusable.

            Drew Smyly was one of the most reprehensible Rangers pitchers since Matt Moore. Moore was right up there with Chan Ho Park in term of all time worst Rangers pitchers. Thankfully for Rangers fans, the awful Smyly is gone.

            Shelby Miller has been relegated to mop up duty. He does not belong in any MLB rotation. His 8.59 ERA is a total joke and his ineptitude is a great example of why signing pitchers coming off of severe injuries is a risk. To be frank, Miller was not that talented before his injury so it is no shock he is basically worthless now.

            Ariel Jurado is trying to be 2019 version of Bartolo Colon. The Latino rightie known for his two seam fastball has been decent as a replacement starter.

            Adrian Sampson has looked incredible at times and awful at others. He either turns in an elite performance or puts the game out of reach for the Rangers early. He needs to be more consistent if him and Jurado want to be the 2019 version of Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter. That is to say, if the Rangers want to be a threat, they need these two young arms to develop now.

            Austin Bibens-Dirkx was playing in China but was recently signed to replace clueless Drew Smyly. ABD outdueled Max Sherzer once, and used to work at Applebees. ABD is somewhere between average and sub par, but considering Miller and Smyly are clowns ABD is a welcome addition to pitching staff.

            Jesse Chavez has moved into the starter role also and has been decent. Chavez used to start in the past.

            Chris Martin and Shawn Kelly are the two backend arms the Rangers rely on. Both have an ERA in the 3’s. Both are hard-throwing righties. Neither are all that consistent or trustworthy. It might be worth trying to sign Addison Reed for the Rangers. The Twins released him in May and the Rangers badly need the pitching depth.

            Jose Leclerc, who was supposed to be the closer and bullpen ace, has been inconsistent. He lost the closers job and now opens games and pitches basically anywhere but the 9th. The work Manager Chris Woodward has done to keep young Leclerc’s mind from being destroyed like so many closer before him is commendable. But if the Rangers want to be a real threat, they need Leclerc to be closing games again by September.

            Hitting- The Rangers hitting has been good. They hit well with RISP and have pop in the lineup.

            The catching spot has been a disaster for the Rangers. Perennial backup Jeff Mathis has been thrust into a job he is blatantly not capable of. He cannot throw stealing runners out, his offense is so laughable he spent a major part of the first half with a WRC+ in the single digits (100 is average.) Mathis has a noodle arm and an inability to hit. The Rangers cite platitudes about how he “works with the pitching staff” to justify his continued starts.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been immensely disappointing. He has been poor at the plate and also gets endlessly run on like Mathis. IKF got hurt recently, but he has been a big disappointment so far.

Tim Federowicz is the best option the Rangers currently have at catcher. He is plucky with lots of room to grow.

First base has been manned by Ronald Guzman, who plays exceptional defense. Guzman got hurt early on and has had trouble getting on base since his return. He has good power, but strikes out too much.

Rougie Odor continues to be one of the worst contracts in Rangers history. Odor has no plate discipline, a sub .200 batting average, and is extremely prone to mental errors. The only thing keeping Odor from being benched or released is the power he provides. A Rougie Odor homer is like a good time you have with a toxic girlfriend, the illusion of happiness in the moment keeps you coming back despite that fact you know it cannot really work.

Elvis Andrus has been solid. He is a middle of the lineup threat that hits over .300. Nothing has changed with him.

Asdrubal Cabrera has been good at home and awful on the road at third. He needs to be more consistent to be useful starter.

Logan Forsythe and Danny Santana are two excellent utility players that have kept the Rangers going through injuries. It cannot be understated how much better these two are compared to Jurickson Profar, who now plays for Oakland.

Shin-Soo Choo is a monster at the top of the lineup. Choo is an on base machine and probably the most consistent hitter in the Rangers lineup.

Delino DeShields is known for his speed and defense. He has been excellent since he spent some time in AAA. Unfortunately, Joey Gallo gets a lot of starts in center and this limits Delino’s playtime.

Joey Gallo has been the best batter on the Rangers. He has finally made the transition from a gimmicky Adam Dunn type hitter to a true slugger. He has raised his batting average by over 60 points without losing power or discipline. He also has a great arm and is defensively flexible.

Hunter Pence spent much of his offseason south of the border. He revamped his swing and turned back the clock to be an RBI machine. Unfortunately, his injury prevented the Rangers from being in 2nd place at the break. Since his absence, the offense has been significantly worse with men on base.

Overall, the Rangers are still contenders for the 2nd wild card spot. They lack pitching depth. Assuming Gallo, Pence, and Choo all stay healthy the offense will continue to do very well. The offense has been very scary, despite being exceptionally weak at the bottom. The Rangers should hope to win about 90 games, sneak into the best of one wild card game, and ride ace Mike Minor like he was Cliff Lee.